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How Helping Other People Can Keep Alcoholics Sober

Becoming a Valued Member of the Community in Recovery

When people are caught up in addiction, there can be a great deal of shame and embarrassment. The individual may feel like a bit of a social outcast, and they may find it difficult to look “normal people” in the eye. The reality is that addiction causes the individual to become completely self-absorbed, and this means that they may have little time to care about other people. In recovery, the person can completely turn things around. Instead of being a social outcast, they will become a valued member of the community. The individual will learn that there is a great deal of joy to be had by helping other people, and that this type of activity can even strengthen their recovery.

Benefits of Helping Other People

There are some definite benefits to helping other people as part of a recovery programme from addiction including:

  • It is common for people in early recovery to continue to have low self-esteem. They may feel shame about their past actions, and this means that they continue to feel like they are somehow less than other people. Helping others is a fantastic way to build self-esteem. The individual gets proof that their life is worthwhile, and that they do deserve the good things in life.
  • It may not be possible for the individual to undo the hurt they have caused in the past completely, but they can do a great deal to make up for it. By helping other people, the individual will be tipping the balance in favour of their good actions rather than their not so good ones.
  • If the individual is helping other people who are struggling with addiction, it will be a constant reminder of where they have come from. This means that they will be less likely to become complacent about recovery, and they will be willing to keep working to maintain it.
  • This is an opportunity for the individual to give something back. It is likely that other people will have helped them to become sober, so it is only right that they should provide this same help to others who are still struggling with addiction problems.
  • Self-absorption leads to a great deal of suffering. By focusing on other people, the individual will be taking a step away from their own concerns and worries.
  • One of the most rewarding aspects of recovery is interpersonal relationships and helping other people is a way to develop more of these bonds.
  • Some studies suggest that those people who try to help other people are less likely to suffer from depression. This may be because there is a link between self-absorption and feeling depressed.
  • If helping involves some type of voluntary work then it will mean that the individual will have the opportunity to develop new skills. This may later mean that they will find it easier to find employment.

Help Other People as a Way to Help Yourself

Helping other people is something that people can do out of compassion for their fellow humans, but in reality the person who often benefits the most is the person doing the helping. This is due to the benefits of this type of activity as mentioned above. This is not to say that such work is not going to help the person on the receiving end, but it is important to keep things in perspective to prevent the individual from turning this into some type of ego trip.

How to Help Other People in Recovery

Those individuals who have decided that they want to help other people will have many opportunities to do this. It is not necessary that the individual helps other people dealing with addiction problems, but this can be an obvious choice because it may be where the person can be most useful. Those individuals who are caught in addiction tend to respond best to other people who have been through what they have been through, so this type of volunteer work is definitely in demand. Here are a few ideas for how to help other people in recovery:

  • Those individuals who belong to a self-help fellowship such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous should have no problem finding opportunities to serve. In fact, these groups would not be able to function if it were not for the fact that members were willing to help one another. There is a wide range of options open when it comes to service in these meetings including making the tea, welcoming newcomers, acting as secretary of a meeting, doing telephone service, or joining in outreach programs – just sharing in a meeting can be a type of service.
  • There are many recovery programmes that depend on volunteers, and they will usually be grateful for the help of those who are established in recovery.
  • There are plenty of other volunteer programmes available in the community that are not related to addiction recovery, and these can be a good option as well.
  • It is not necessary to join any type of formal volunteer programme in order to help other people. The individual can just be more ready to lend a helping hand when it is called for in their life – this could be something as simple as helping the elderly cross the road.

The Dangers of Helping Others in Recovery

If people go about helping others the wrong way it can be dangerous because:

  • If the individual becomes obsessed with other people, they may use it as an excuse to hide from their own problems. It is vital that the individual approaches this type of work with a sense of balance or else it can just become another type of addictive behaviour.
  • It is important that the person approach this type of work with humility. This means keeping in mind that it will be helping them at least as much as it will be helping the other person. Volunteer work that is done as a type of ego trip is not likely to benefit anyone, and it could even do a great deal of harm. It is good that the person feels proud of their good work, but they also need to keep things in perspective.
  • Some people may use this type of work as a means to be manipulative or even to engage in criminal activity. It is wrong to offer help to somebody with the intention of somehow exploiting him or her. An example of this would be helping a vulnerable newcomer while trying to elicit sexual favours – in the 12 Step groups this is called 13th stepping.
  • Helping other people should not mean interfering with their ability to make choices for themselves. Trying to run the other person’s life can be a form of exploitation, and the person doing the helping may be trying to project his or her own issues onto somebody else.

Offering help to another person does not give people the right to talk down to that person or patronise him or her – this is not helping.

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